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Latino candidate for NY mayor hopes to stir 'sleeping giant'

10 august 2013, 10:20
0
If Adolfo Carrion's math is correct, all he needs to become the next mayor of New York is for half the city's Hispanic voters to turn out on election day, AFP reports.

"Hispanics are a sleeping giant. We believe our time has come," said Carrion, one of two Latinos in the running to succeed Michael Bloomberg at city hall on November 5.

Born in Brooklyn to Puerto Rican parents who came to New York in 1955, the 52-year-old politician is running under the Independence Party banner.

But he's no newcomer to public life, having spent more than two decades engaged in the political side of America's biggest city.

"If Latinos come out to vote, it would change the politics of New York," he told AFP at his office in Manhattan this week.

"So part of the message of this campaign is: 'This is your city; take control of your city and your destiny'," he said.

New York is a traditionally Democratic city, so the party primary taking place in September comes across as a dress rehearsal for the November vote.

Leading the field is city council speaker Christine Quinn, city ombudsman Bill de Blasio, comptroller Bill Thompson and former US congressman Anthony Weiner, whose bid has been undermined by renewed sex scandals.

Besides Carrion, the other Latino in the mayoral contest is Erick Salgado, a Democrat who is also of Puerto Rican origin who, judging from opinion polls, has little chance of winning.

To Carrion, the chances of succeeding three-term mayor Bloomberg hinge critically on the city's one million Latino voters.

Mobilizing the electorate in general has been a challenge.

In 2009, when media tycoon Bloomberg won re-election for the last time, just 1.2 million people cast ballots, or 29 percent of all registered voters -- and that includes a mere 189,000 Latinos, Carrion said.

Carrion, who has represented The Bronx on the city council, attributes the problem to a prevailing sentiment among Latinos that they are just long-term "visitors" not fully settled in the city -- even if they make up about a third of its population of 8.3 million.

"You have to change the psychology and take hold of the reins. The greatest victory would be to encourage the Hispanic people," Carrion said.

Carrion's platform calls for a "modernization of the infrastructure" of the city, especially public transport and Internet access, in order to attract investment and create jobs.

He is also pushing for a "transformation of public education" to reflect the needs of modern industries, as well as more affordable housing -- no small issue in a city where rents have gone sky high.

On public security, in a city still traumatized by the 9/11 attacks, Carrion recognizes the achievements of Bloomberg's administration and its predecessors, saying: "New York is more secure today than at any other time in our history."

But he added that it is necessary to improve the relationship between the police and the community, including minority groups.

Hispanics and African Americans say they bear the brunt of spot checks by police that generate a sense of mistrust.

On the environment, Carrion favors support for more electric vehicles, more environmentally "green" buildings, even urban agriculture.

Overall, he said his objective is to "inspire participation" in a place where, in his opinion, citizens "do not feel part of the civic life of the city."

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